A lovely powerpoint by a mathematician turned computer scientist. (Thanks, J and L!)
A lovely powerpoint by a mathematician turned computer scientist. (Thanks, J and L!)
From a reader, to whom I’d like respond: Yes, feminist philosophers teach critical thinking! And I’ve long been frustrated by the ‘selection’ of texts in critical thinking and informal logic. I appreciate Wanda Teays’ work, but I’d prefer to have multiple choices of texts connecting critical thinking with these urgent sociopolitical questions, rather than having to choose either Teays’ work or something so broadly written that we’re primarily batting around the probability that you picked a white block from a box with white and black blocks. I loved stats, I still do, but surely we can do other crucial sorts of work in the same texts? Request for readings and company follows
I just wondered if people are as frustrated as I am at the selection of texts in critical thinking and informal logic? I keep getting new titles from publishers that encourage students to “think about weird things” and find “The two errors in the title of this book” — there is almost nothing about social identity, intersectionality, white privilege, or residual and implicit bias. I proposed such a book to a major publisher but the response was “that would really just suit a niche market in ‘urban’ schools!!” Aside from Wanda Teays “Critical Thinking from a Multicultural Perspective” there is little out there. Are many feminist philosophers teaching Critical Thinking or Informal Logic?
A re-write of this.
Do go check it out– along with the obvious, I think there are some good critical thinking exercises one could draw out from it.
This time they arrested Naomi Wolf for discussing walking up and down a side walk.
The feminist author Naomi Wolf has criticised the erosion of the right to public protest in the United States after she was arrested alongside Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York.
Wolf was led away in handcuffs after addressing protesters outside an awards ceremony held to honour New York’s governor, at which she was a guest.
She told the Guardian on Wednesday: “When I came out, the protesters had been pushed across the street. This happens in Britain, too, with kettling. Police keep inventing this right to barricade people in and tell people where to protest, but in the United States this is wrong: it’s against the first amendment rights of freedom of assembly.
“So I walked over to where they were – they were backed up against the wall. Police said there was a permit saying they couldn’t walk on the sidewalk. There was this giant phalanx of police.”
After discussing the issue with officers, Wolf said she established that the event’s permit did not prevent people from walking on the sidewalk outside the venue. Along with a small number of other protesters, she started to pace up and down the sidewalk.
“Then, a huge group of men in white shirts, who seem to be affiliated to the New York police department, but who are not self-evidently so – bigger and fitter than the rank-and-file blue-shirted officers – came in droves. About 30 or 40 of these men appeared.
“They got a megaphone – which the protesters are told is illegal – and they started shouting that we were illegally disrupting an event and we should disperse.”
Wolf said she “calmly” disputed the order with one of the officers in white shirts, who are more senior than those in blue shirts. “By this time I was surrounded by them. One of them asked me if I was going to get out of his way. I didn’t think consciously that I couldn’t step away, but I froze. My conscience froze me.”
Officers then detained Wolf, and took her to a precinct where she said she spent about half an hour in a cell. Her partner, the film producer Avram Ludwig, was also arrested. Both were later released with a summons for “refusing a lawful order”.
To be more serious for a moment, the clip seems scary to me. It turns out that one cannot conduct a calm argument with the police. If you are wrong, you can get arrested.
Far worse than being an undergraduate in a logic course.
When we are in Galveston, we stay in an apartment on the twentieth-floor; living below us are two people, husband and wife, who left Russia in 1980 and, after 17 years of hard work, built a successful engineering company. Now in fact about two years ago one of our cats leapt off our balcony and onto theirs. This caused great consternation on our floor, as we hunted and hunted for him, and great puzzlement on theirs, as they tried to figure out why a hitherto unknown cat was hiding in one of their bathrooms.
The story is jolly enough that I think every time I’ve seen him, we’ve discussed the great cat adventure. It is wearing very thin. So knowing I would see him and his wife at a dinner, I was determined to discuss something else. And the obvious topic was Russia. In response to my queries, he was talking about how desperate they were to leave, and how they never wanted to go back. But, he said, “what I never thought I’d see is that this country is becoming more and more like Russia was.”
So, after some thought, I’ve come to see that there were two very different ways I could have taken this remark. In fact, either of the responses below would have fit conversationally, but they make very different suppositions about political beliefs. And obviously, there are lots of substitutes for the two that retain their political position, if not the same content.
1. I know just what you mean. When I saw those nearly skin headed police marching around in Boston last week and dragging people off, I could have felt the scene was in Eastern Europe in the 1970″s.
2. I know just what you mean. Obama has read his Karl Marx and has learned the main lesson well: turn the poor against the rich. With that message, he can stay in power a long, long time.
The group of people at dinner are connected to the lovely women who acceded to a friend’s request and so do not swear around her for fear of lowering her spirits. This is Texas, darlin’!
So you would have said (1)? Would anyone have foreseen (2) is what he had in mind? He shared (2) with me just before he got up and walked away. O dear.
A friend sent me an off-print of his which referred to Eugene Gendlin as someone who has explored implicit understanding a great deal. At the same time I was reading Alexis Shotwell’s intriguing Knowing Otherwise, which also explores how we have an implicit, bodily-based grasp of things that forms a great deal of our take on ourselves and others. Nearly the same day, Amazon.com was recommending that I pre-order Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, of which Publisher’s Weekly says:
“The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so “lazy” and distractible that it usually defers to System 1.
Kahneman’s unconscious System 1 is at least aimed at implicit understanding. And then Read Montague’s work has recently turned to what seems to me to be a fascinating example of implicit bias, first described by Ann Harvey, who is in his lab.
So on reading Gendlin on accessing this level, I wondered what sort of role employing the unconscious/implicit understanding has for philosophers today. Here in fact is a description from Gendlin of what such accessing is like. I suspect that if it plays a significant role in your cognition as a philosopher, then you’ll recognize it, even if the description definitely does not come from an analytically trained philosopher:
You have a bodily orienting sense. You know who you are and how you come to be reading this page. To know this you don’t need to think. The knowing is physically sensed in your body and can easily be found. But this bodily knowing can extend much more deeply. You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any problem or situation. Your body “knows” the whole of each context, vastly more aspects of it than you can enumerate separately.
You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings. Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed “murky zone” which is concretely there. This is a source from which new steps emerge.
At first, this murky “something” may seem opaque. Although concretely there, it may not seem promising. With certain teachable steps of bodily attention it opens. How you sense the situation shifts. New possibilities for fresh thinking and action arise beyond the already-given alternatives. The whole scene changes. An intricate territory of factors, events, conditions, and new questions emerges where there was only a slight bodily sense at the start.
If you’ve followed so far, and you work as a professional philosopher in the sense of producing work you have or would like to see published as academic philosophy, it would be wonderful if you would take the poll:
I’ve changed the title of this post to bring out something that seemed to me striking. It seems to various agencies devoted to studying, curing and preventing cancer are saying that alcohol is a carcinogen when consumed in amounts that in fact many people do consume it. Maybe everyone else has gotten this, but it isn’t showing up in, for example, discussions about whether to raise the estimates of the healthy intake of alcohol in the UK.
Of course, there are lots of possibilities here about who is right or wrong, and it would be great if anyone has any insight here.
So here are some facts about recommendations and guidelines regarding the consumption of alcohol.
Now in fact the difference here from the US is not that great. 2 units of spirits for the UK appear to be about 1.7 ounces, which one unit for the US is 1.5. Still, the UK is going to increase theirs, it seems.
Now, one can certainly get one’s head around all this. Americans disapprove of drinking, and Europeans and the Japanese do not. Roughly speaking.
But here’s the reveal. According to the American Cancer Society, research shows that consuming alcohol is connected to getting cancer. Limiting alcohol may lessen one’s risk for cancer. The limits are these: women one drink and two for men.
OK, that’s just puritannical American, I said to myself. What will the UK health service say about alsohol and cancer? Well, here’s what Cancer Research UK says:
There is no doubt that alcohol can cause seven types of cancer.
- The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce your risk of cancer.
- There is limited risk if you only drink a little – such as one small drink a day for women or two for men.
- You don’t need to be drunk to increase your risk.
- Drinking and smoking together are even worse for you.
The consequences of drinking too much alcohol go well beyond the evening’s embarrassing antics or the morning’s hangover. Scientific studies have confirmed that alcohol can also cause cancer.
Tracking down the percentages for one form of cancern, breast cancer, it looks as the the American Cancer Society is prepared to say that drinking 2-5 units of alcohol a day increases one’s risk by a full 6%. That is, women who drink no more than one drink a day have a 12 percent change of getting breast cancer; more than that and you are at 18%
There is, it seems to me, a shocking disconnect in some of these figures.
Many people writing and reading this blog are interested in change. We think both on smaller and on larger scales, from the injustices in our profession to those in our society and onto those afffecting subordinated people around the world.
I am wondering how many of us look to the business management literature for some ideas about what can be done, and what we are not doing yet. When I offered to head up a scientific research group, and later when I was heading of the faculty organization, I reckoned I had better read a lot to get some ideas of what worked and what didn’t work.
I think I got a lot of help. For example, one model of leadership – you pick your favorite group and meet behind closed doors to decide on initiatives which you present to the others – is ubiquitous in academia. It is, however, not a good model for changing a culture. John Kotter, at Harvard, was one of the leaders in enabling people to see how one should not do that, to put it roughly, and he drew up alternative models of change effective leadership styles.
I was thinking of this today since a newsletter from a management consultancy firm came into my mailbox. It was selling a book, of course. But the book was about the difficulty of change, how there is always great resistence to change, and about how to work with that, how to absorb the resisters into partnerships. Sounds like what we want to do.
One other figure in the business management field I want to mention is Rosabeth Kantor. I first encountered her as someone to read when I took a summer course for feminism for faculty at Rutgers in the 1980′s. One of her leading thoughts, it seemed to me then, was how being outsiders in organizations (e.g., the token person of color, disabled person, etc) could get your head screwed up and turn you into someone you didn’t really want to be. (That’s my take on her take, and not exactly what she said.)
One thing that I used to read regularly was the Harvard Business School Newsletter. It’s fun to come to understand more fully why things your university is doing are pointless or counterproductive. Looking for it today I found two interesting things. One is an interview with Kantor:
and the other I found when I googled “Harvard Business School letter.” I discovered a lot of templates for letters of recommendation. Not bad ones at all.
So, should we all rush out and get some management books? If not, why not in some way look through the literature?
Have a look at the Kantor interview. What do you think?
Tanya McDowell is homeless, but wanted to enroll her son in kindergarten. (The nerve!) Now she’s being charged with “stealing education” for him, because in order to enroll him she claimed an address that she didn’t have (because, being homeless, she had no address). For more, go here. To sign a petition in support of her, go here.
The bad news:
According to a recent Guardian article, Kate Middleton set a high standard with her wedding dress that she must now meet. If she fails, she will find her love affair with the British press is at an end. She will also sorely disappoint the British fashion industry which apparently expect her to be a live advertisement for British style. Even worse:
Kate’s success and contribution to the British monarchy will now be measured not simply by what she does or says, but on what she wears.
The value of a life depends on the clothes one wears? A thought or fear too many women can understand, one expects.
The good news comes from the comments on the article. Many people thought it rubbish. For example:
- The shallow making vapid comments on the uninteresting and the banal clothes they wear is of no remote interest to any respectable human being capable of any level of coherent logical thought.
- It’s up to the Duchess. Giving a nod to the fashion industry, wonderful, if she chooses. But we should realize, she isn’t a Barbie doll that we can dress up.
Its not exactly unusual to wear a dress a step up from your usual rags if its, I don’t know, the most important day in your life. Especially if that day is being watched by a third of the human race. Given the couple plan to return to a quiet northen town instead of Paris, I’m guessing ‘Jigsaw frocks and Monsoon jewellery’ [the article's characterization of her standard style] might be making a come back.
The people are not buying it.